In hopes of reducing one of the more costly and time consuming steps in geothermal project development, the U.S. Department of Energy issued its Geo- thermal Regulatory Roadmap to “help developers navigate regulatory requirements at every level of government.” The DOE charged the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with the task of rounding up key industry representatives and federal, state and local officials to pinpoint areas where development may be streamlined.
In 2011, a DOE report identified permitting as one of the largest barriers to geothermal development. According to industry experts, a geothermal project typically takes seven to eight years to complete, and four of those years are bogged down with permitting red tape. At a recent conference, Karl Gawell of the Geothermal Energy Association called for the industry to come together and deal with the issue. “We don’t want to end up in a corner where we are either not building these projects and having climate change come down around our ears, or we are building these projects but [they are] repealed. We need to find somewhere in the middle,” he said.
The roadmap includes clear-cut flowcharts with instructions for each step of the development process, whether a project is in the siting phase or drilling phase, and links to necessary documents and forms. The roadmap is currently available for eight geothermal-heavy states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah, with Colorado and Texas next in line. DOE hopes the roadmap will help lower development costs and reduce financial risks.
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